Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A glimpse beyond the big B’s of Philippine sports

It is ironic that many athletes still manage to shine even when a more unified and well-supported sports for all program remains to be a dream. Amateur and professional sports produced the likes of Paeng Nepomuceno, Efren “Bata” Reyes, and Manny Pacquiao to name a few. However, away from the spotlight of more popular sports there are individuals and groups that breathe life to a severely malnourished sports framework.

Sports in the Filipino mindset are usually focused on the Big B’s such as basketball, billiards, boxing, and badminton. The popularity gained by these sports give them the distinct advantage in generating more resources for promotion and development. Consequently, the continuous increase in support opens doors to an extensive list of expertise like coaching, technical training, and sports medicine. It is not surprising then that these are the sports that either put the country into the global sports map or attract more members at the grassroots level.

There are, however, other sports that increasingly appeal to people from all walks of life. Running keeps on gaining more prominence. Runners and running clubs are growing in numbers. In fact, it is hard to miss individuals and groups out for their daily morning or evening runs.

The continuous growth of running for fitness or competition is a positive turn in promoting sports for all in the country. The fact that thousands of people pursue it for leisure or competition signifies that Filipinos are eager to embrace sports to achieve a healthier lifestyle. And if the weekly fun runs, road races, and marathons are to be used as gauge then running is undoubtedly successful in reaching out to people from diverse backgrounds and age groups.

Another sport with a thriving community of active members is dragon boat. Since the sport was introduced in Manila during the late 1980’s its membership increased exponentially. It also managed to make its mark in the global dragon boat scene by producing world champions courtesy of its national athletes.

Like running, the grassroots activities of dragon boat are self-sustained. Imagine then what a solid and financially-backed grassroots program can accomplish if a meager government budget allocation produce champions locally and internationally. Having a wide base of potential recruits can make talent identification for the national pool of athletes easier.

The other side of Philippine sports relies not only on financial support but also in the environment. Sport and the environment is a program that needs to be promoted. Promoting the sport of rowing in its base is a case in point. Over the years, the Pasig River is home to various rowing club teams. But the dismal state of the river is not exactly the most ideal venue for training. However, student and corporate athletes commit to training regularly because of their passion for the sport. The sport even managed to qualify two of its national athletes in the Olympics.

Running, dragon boat, and rowing are just some of the many sports being promoted in the country. Perhaps it is an under-appreciated fact that each national sports association work towards elevating the status of their respective sports both in the elite and grassroots level.

A lot of things are said to point out the many shortcomings of sports leaders and institutions tasked to advocate, develop, and promote sports in the country. Over the years, sports development in its entirety can be described as inadequate or sluggish at best. Maybe it is because it just did not enjoy the kind of unified support from different sectors.

To compare overall performance with powerhouse countries in the region is highly unfair for those who are passionate and committed to working for the betterment of Philippine sports. There is only so much that a meager budget can do to sustain an ailing sports framework.

The best contribution Filipinos can make to support the country’s sports program is to find opportunities to participate or encourage others to do so. There are more to Philippine sports than what we frequently read or hear about and watch on television. Beyond the fame and popularity of certain sports there are different disciplines that aim to bring more pride to our country.

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